As the presenter, I received a question online from a recent ATD webinar participant; “How do you prepare healthcare teams for change? What are the best methods of change communication? Practical tools, please, something easy to execute, not theoretical.”
The ability to lead yourself, a team, and/or an entire organization is an essential competency for any leader. It’s also one of the most researched and published leadership development topics. There wasn’t enough time to adequately answer live, so I informed the participant that I would follow up with them directly afterwards. Here’s what I told her, possibly other healthcare leaders and professionals can use the information as well:
1. Study the Models
Research change models and select an appropriate one to use as a framework. See 8 Critical Change Management Models to Evolve and Survive for a list of the most valid, reliable and popular models. Think about it. If change always followed an exact pattern, if it was always predictable, there wouldn’t be a need for different models. I usually use the Bridges Transition Model, and often, elements of one or two of the other eight models as well. Read whatever book the model came from.
My favorite is Managing Transitions, Making the Most of Change, by William Bridges. I create frameworks from the Bridges’ model to apply practical implementation of the model to address a specific project I’m working on. The key word for frameworks, is practical implementation, involving real situations and events, rather than just ideas and theories. These projects include; Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, Leadership Development programs, Cultural Change actions and Process Improvement solutions.
2. Create a Practical Framework
People are often quite uncomfortable with change, for all sorts of understandable reasons. This can lead them to resist it and oppose it. Here’s a framework and checklist created to change a Leadership Culture, build Cultural Competence, reinforce a Culture of Accountability, or other Organizational Development Initiatives. William Bridges PhD, is a leader on the subject of change and transition management. Bridges says that transitions can be described in three stages, which are both natural and predictable.
Here is an overview of the three stages and personal life examples. Recognize the difference between us as individuals is the speed at which we go through transitions and the factors that impact the transition, such as our past experience with change, our involvement in issues surrounding the change and whether the change is voluntary or not.
As leaders, here are sample questions to ensure you manage each stage of the process to support peoples’ transition through change. Think about what actions to take to help yourself and others manage through endings, the neutral zone and new beginnings.
- Am I giving people accurate information, again and again?
- Have I defined clearly what is over and what isn’t?
- Have I permitted people to grieve and acknowledged with sympathy the losses felt by others, even when they seem like overreaction?
- Have I worked hard to unpack old baggage, heal old wounds, and finish unfinished business?
- Have I found ways to ‘mark the ending’, not to denigrate the past, to find ways to honor it?
- Have I said thank you to everyone who has contributed?
- Have I given people a piece of the past to take with them?
Managing The NEUTRAL ZONE
- Have I created realistic short-range goals and checkpoints, training programs, temporary policies, procedures, roles, reporting relationships and organisation groupings needed to get through the neutral zone?
- Have I found ways to keep people feeling they belong and are valued?
- Have I made sure that realistic feedback is flowing upward?
- Have I encouraged experiments, creative thinking and trying things a new way?
- Am I protecting people from further changes, and if I can’t protect them, am I clustering those changes meaningfully?
- Am I pushing for certainty where it would be more realistic to live a little longer with uncertainty and questions?|
Managing NEW BEGINNINGS
- Have I clarified the primary task of my organization and helped others to do the same? Do I have a deep feeling for this primary task, or am I merely mouthing words?
- Have I a story or explanation that makes sense of this particular transition? Have I communicated an effective picture of the change, the purpose behind it and the new identity which will emerge from it?
- Am I watching out that I don’t stake too much on a forecasted future and do I include worst-case scenarios to challenge the forecasts?
- Do I accept that peopled are going to be ambivalent toward the beginning I am trying to bring about? Have I helped everyone to discover the part that they play in the new system? Have I included opportunities for quick success to help people rebuild their self-confidence?
- Am I being careful not to introduce extra, unrelated changes while my people are still struggling to respond to the big transition?
- Have I checked to see that policies and procedures are consistent with the new beginning so that inconsistencies aren’t sending mixed message?
- Am I watching my own actions to be sure I am modeling the attitudes and behaviors I am asking others to develop?
- Have I found ways, financial and non-financial, to reward people for becoming the new people I am calling upon them to become?
- Have I found ways to celebrate the new beginning?Have I given people a piece of the transition to keep as a reminder of the difficult journey we all took together?
3. Be Flexible
I advise, no matter how well you plan for change you should always expect a surprise. Change rarely follows the exact steps change management models suggest. However, it’s always good to work to a plan, especially using a model that’s based on experience and observation. So, explore these models of change leadership and take what is valuable to you.
Allow yourself some flexibility when following a model rather than following it too rigidly. This is especially important in the healthcare industry where multiple recent studies say that staff dissatisfaction and burnout are at an all-time high.
In a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI); health system leaders and managers cited “leading and organizing for change” and “improving joy in work/preventing burnout” as the two top challenges facing them today.
4. Communication is Key
Refer to the article, Communicating Change What People Want to Hear and What They Need To See, as a change leadership job-aid when preparing your change communication plan. I usually ask the executive sponsor or project leader these questions upfront:
- What is the change?
- How difficult or complex is the change?
- Who is impacted by the change?
- How are they impacted?
- Why is the change necessary?
- What happens if no change occurs?
- How do you anticipate those impacted by the change will react?
Answering these questions helps determine and/or predict the impact, scope, complexity and acceptance of the change by providing a gauge or guideline for communications planning.
The webinar participant was pleased with the feedback I was able to share with her and was eager to appy the recommendations in her work. I hope you find this helpful to you! Please let me know how these areas can help in your work environment.